Close, but no cigar.
Nicholas Sanders made sure it was only close as the Red Deer Rebels fired 42 shots on the Prince Albert netminder, but only beat him twice in a 3-2 loss at the Centrium Friday.
The win was just the ninth overall on the year for the Raiders and only their fourth on the road. It was also the first win of the season in 13 tries for Sanders, who had a 4.21 goals against average and .881 save percentage coming into the game.
Tied 2-2 in the third, a Jordan Roy kneeing penalty with 5:51 to play proved costly for the Rebels as the Raiders Brayden Pachal scored the game-winning goal 42 seconds into the man advantage.
“We had our chances, but it’s a tight game and we take a bad penalty in the last six minutes of the game,” Rebels GM and head coach Brent Sutter said.
“You can’t play that way. It’s like playoff hockey. If guys like that are going to take penalties they can’t play. It’s simple. Our PK hasn’t been good all year. When you’re in a position like that you just can’t do it. You can’t take a penalty like that. Their goalie played well. At the end of the day you have to get points this time of year.”
Rebels captain Adam Musil summed up the performance simply.
“We have to bear down on our scoring chances. Our power play has to be better, too. Tough loss tonight. Those are the teams we have to beat,” he said.
For the fifth straight game, Red Deer allowed a goal in the first period and had to chase the game until they took control early in second period.
Trailing 1-0, Michael Spacek scored his 20th goal of the season at 1:37 of the second frame on a beautiful breakaway pass from Brandon Hagel. Spacek in all alone, deked right and open up Sanders before he slid the puck five hole.
Even Polei equalled Spacek for the team lead in goals just 7:10 later, after Musil rocketed a wrist shot off the crossbar and the loose puck sat in the crease.
The Raiders tied the game with just 2:07 left in the second after a bouncing puck landed on Parker Kelly’s stick.
The Rebels power play was one for five on the night.
Red Deer had plenty of chances late and a number of chances on the power play but Sanders came up huge. Particularly when the Rebels pulled the goalie with under a minute to play and had two grade A scoring opportunities to tie the game.
The Rebels will get back at it on Saturday night against the Victoria Royals, in the second game of a five-game homestand.